Modern philosophy

Modern philosophy

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Modern philosophy is a type of philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 that originated in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 in the 17th century, and is now common worldwide. It is not a specific doctrine or school (and so should not be confused with Modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

), although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

.
The 17th and early 20th centuries roughly mark the beginning and the end of modern philosophy. How much if any of the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 it should include is a matter for dispute; likewise modernity may or may not have ended in the twentieth century and been replaced by postmodernity
Postmodernity
Postmodernity is generally used to describe the economic or cultural state or condition of society which is said to exist after modernity...

. How one decides these questions will determine the scope of one's use of "modern philosophy". The convention, however, is to refer to philosophy of the Renaissance prior to René Descartes
René Descartes
René Descartes ; was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day...

 as "Early Modern Philosophy" (leaving open whether that puts it just inside or just outside the boundary) and to refer to twentieth-century philosophy, or sometimes just philosophy since Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...

, as "contemporary philosophy
Contemporary philosophy
Contemporary philosophy is the present period in the history of Western philosophy beginning at the end of the 19th century with the professionalization of the discipline and the rise of analytic and continental philosophy....

" (again, leaving open whether or not it is still modern). This article will focus on the history of philosophy beginning from Descartes through the early twentieth century ending in Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...

.

History of modern philosophy


The major figures in philosophy of mind
Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e...

, epistemology, and metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are roughly divided into two main groups. The "Rationalists
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

," mostly in France and Germany, assumed that all knowledge must begin from certain "innate ideas
Innatism
Innatism is a philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a 'blank slate' at birth, as early empiricists such as John Locke claimed...

" in the mind. Major rationalists were Descartes, Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

, Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician. He wrote in different languages, primarily in Latin , French and German ....

, and Nicolas Malebranche
Nicolas Malebranche
Nicolas Malebranche ; was a French Oratorian and rationalist philosopher. In his works, he sought to synthesize the thought of St. Augustine and Descartes, in order to demonstrate the active role of God in every aspect of the world...

. The "Empiricists
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

," by contrast, held that knowledge must begin with sensory experience. Major figures in this line of thought are John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, George Berkeley
George Berkeley
George Berkeley , also known as Bishop Berkeley , was an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism"...

, and David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 (These are retrospective categories, for which Kant is largely responsible; but they are accurate enough.) Ethics and political philosophy are usually not subsumed under these categories, though all these philosophers worked in ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, in their own distinctive styles. Other important figures in political philosophy
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

 include Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

 and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

.

In the late eighteenth century Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 set forth a groundbreaking philosophical system which claimed to bring unity to rationalism and empiricism. Whether or not he was right, he did not entirely succeed in ending philosophical dispute. Kant sparked a storm of philosophical work in Germany in the early nineteenth century, beginning with German idealism
German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

. The characteristic theme of idealism was that the world and the mind equally must be understood according to the same categories; it culminated in the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, who among many other things said that "The real is rational; the rational is real."

Hegel's work was carried in many directions by his followers and critics. Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 appropriated both Hegel's philosophy of history
Philosophy of history
The term philosophy of history refers to the theoretical aspect of history, in two senses. It is customary to distinguish critical philosophy of history from speculative philosophy of history...

 and the empirical ethics dominant in Britain, transforming Hegel's ideas into a strictly materialist form, setting the grounds for the development of a science of society. Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 dismissed all systematic philosophy
Systematic philosophy
Systematic philosophy is a generic term that applies to philosophical methods and approaches that attempt to provide a framework in reason that can explain all questions and problems related to human life. Examples of systematic philosophers include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Hegel, and...

 as an inadequate guide to life and meaning. For Kierkegaard, life is meant to be lived, not a mystery to be solved. Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 took idealism to the conclusion that the world was nothing but the futile endless interplay of images and desires, and advocated atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 and pessimism
Pessimism
Pessimism, from the Latin word pessimus , is a state of mind in which one perceives life negatively. Value judgments may vary dramatically between individuals, even when judgments of fact are undisputed. The most common example of this phenomenon is the "Is the glass half empty or half full?"...

. Schopenhauer's ideas were taken up and transformed by Nietzsche, who seized upon their various dismissals of the world to proclaim "God is dead
God is dead
"God is dead" is a widely-quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It first appears in The Gay Science , in sections 108 , 125 , and for a third time in section 343...

" and to reject all systematic philosophy and all striving for a fixed truth transcending the individual. Nietzsche found in this not grounds for pessimism, but the possibility of a new kind of freedom.

19th-century British philosophy came increasingly to be dominated by strands of neo-Hegelian thought, and as a reaction against this, figures such as Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 and George Edward Moore
George Edward Moore
George Edward Moore OM, was an English philosopher. He was, with Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gottlob Frege, one of the founders of the analytic tradition in philosophy...

 began moving the direction of analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century...

, which was essentially an updating of traditional empiricism to accommodate the new developments in logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 of the German mathematician Gottlob Frege
Gottlob Frege
Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German mathematician, logician and philosopher. He is considered to be one of the founders of modern logic, and made major contributions to the foundations of mathematics. He is generally considered to be the father of analytic philosophy, for his writings on...

.

Rationalism



Modern philosophy traditionally begins with René Descartes
René Descartes
René Descartes ; was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day...

 and his dictum "I think, therefore I am
Cogito ergo sum
is a philosophical Latin statement proposed by . The simple meaning of the phrase is that someone wondering whether or not they exist is, in and of itself, proof that something, an "I", exists to do the thinking — However this "I" is not the more or less permanent person we call "I"...

". In the early seventeenth century the bulk of philosophy was dominated by Scholasticism
Scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

, written by theologians and drawing upon Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, and early Church writings. Descartes argued that many predominant Scholastic metaphysical doctrines were meaningless or false. In short, he proposed to begin philosophy from scratch. In his most important work, Meditations on First Philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes and first published in 1641 . The French translation was published in 1647 as Méditations Metaphysiques...

, he attempts just this, over six brief essays. He tries to set aside as much as he possibly can of all his beliefs, to determine what if anything he knows for certain. He finds that he can doubt nearly everything: the reality of physical objects, God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

, his memories, history, science, even mathematics, but he cannot doubt that he is, in fact, doubting. He knows what he is thinking about, even if it is not true, and he knows that he is there thinking about it. From this basis he builds his knowledge back up again. He finds that some of the ideas he has could not have originated from him alone, but only from God; he proves that God exists. He then demonstrates that God would not allow him to be systematically deceived about everything; in essence, he vindicates ordinary methods of science and reasoning, as fallible but not false.

Other major rationalists include Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

 and Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German philosopher and mathematician. He wrote in different languages, primarily in Latin , French and German ....

.

Empiricism



Empiricism is a theory of knowledge which opposes other theories of knowledge, such as rationalism, idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 and historicism
Historicism
Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of...

. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes (only or primarily) via sensory experience
Experience
Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event....

 as opposed to rationalism, which asserts that knowledge comes (also) from pure thinking. Both empiricism and rationalism are individualist theories of knowledge, whereas historicism is a social epistemology
Social epistemology
Social epistemology is a broad set of approaches to the study of knowledge, all of which construe human knowledge as a collective achievement. Another way of positioning social epistemology is as the study of the social dimensions of knowledge. One of the enduring difficulties with defining social...

. While historicism also acknowledges the role of experience, it differs from empiricism by assuming that sensory data cannot be understood without considering the historical and cultural circumstances in which observations are made. Empiricism should not be mixed up with empirical research because different epistemologies should be considered competing views on how best to do studies, and there is near consensus among researchers that studies should be empirical. Today empiricism should therefore be understood as one among competing ideals of getting knowledge or how to do studies. As such empiricism is first and foremost characterized by the ideal to let observational data "speak for themselves", while the competing views are opposed to this ideal. The term empiricism should thus not just be understood in relation to how this term has been used in the history of philosophy. It should also be constructed in a way which makes it possible to distinguish empiricism among other epistemological positions in contemporary science and scholarship. In other words: Empiricism as a concept has to be constructed along with other concepts, which together make it possible to make important discriminations between different ideals underlying contemporary science.

Empiricism is one of several competing views that predominate in the study of human knowledge, known as epistemology. Empiricism emphasizes the role of experience
Experience
Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event....

 and evidence
Evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

 in contrast to, for example, rationalism which relies upon reason and can incorporate innate knowledge.

Political philosophy



  • Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

  • John Locke
    John Locke
    John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

  • Karl Marx
    Karl Marx
    Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

  • Friedrich Engels
    Friedrich Engels
    Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

  • John Stuart Mill
    John Stuart Mill
    John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

  • Jeremy Bentham
    Jeremy Bentham
    Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

  • James Mill
    James Mill
    James Mill was a Scottish historian, economist, political theorist, and philosopher. He was a founder of classical economics, together with David Ricardo, and the father of influential philosopher of classical liberalism, John Stuart Mill.-Life:Mill was born at Northwater Bridge, in the parish of...


Idealism



  • Immanuel Kant
    Immanuel Kant
    Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

  • Arthur Schopenhauer
    Arthur Schopenhauer
    Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

  • Francis Herbert Bradley

Existentialism



  • Søren Kierkegaard
    Søren Kierkegaard
    Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

  • Friedrich Nietzsche
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...


Phenomenology



  • Edmund Husserl
    Edmund Husserl
    Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a philosopher and mathematician and the founder of the 20th century philosophical school of phenomenology. He broke with the positivist orientation of the science and philosophy of his day, yet he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic...

  • Martin Heidegger
    Martin Heidegger
    Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...


Pragmatism



  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • William James
    William James
    William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

  • John Dewey
    John Dewey
    John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...


Analytic philosophy



  • Rudolf Carnap
    Rudolf Carnap
    Rudolf Carnap was an influential German-born philosopher who was active in Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. He was a major member of the Vienna Circle and an advocate of logical positivism....

  • Gottlob Frege
    Gottlob Frege
    Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German mathematician, logician and philosopher. He is considered to be one of the founders of modern logic, and made major contributions to the foundations of mathematics. He is generally considered to be the father of analytic philosophy, for his writings on...

  • George Edward Moore
    George Edward Moore
    George Edward Moore OM, was an English philosopher. He was, with Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gottlob Frege, one of the founders of the analytic tradition in philosophy...

  • Bertrand Russell
    Bertrand Russell
    Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

  • Moritz Schlick
    Moritz Schlick
    Friedrich Albert Moritz Schlick was a German philosopher, physicist and the founding father of logical positivism and the Vienna Circle.-Early life and works:...

  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...